OUR VIEW: Florida is fighting the coronavirus with a gutted Health Department

OUR VIEW: Florida is fighting the coronavirus with a gutted Health Department

Editorial boards, USA TODAY Network- Florida This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Sign up for our daily or breaking newsletters to stay informed. If local news is important to you, consider becoming a digital subscriber to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. *** When David Krause was an industry hygienist with the Florida Department of Health in the mid-1990s, he had a $720,000 annual budget and three people working under him running 16 programs across the state, investigating safety risks in the workplace awarding grants and training employees in county health offices. Fast forward to 2008, when Krause returned to the DOH after some years away. Now, a higher-ranked state toxicologist, his budget was $0 and he had one person working under him; no more grants, he said. Krause’s story is just one example of the slow dismantling of the Florida Department of Health, whose budget has been gutted over the last two decades. The department’s staff is 25% smaller than it was a decade ago. State funding for county health departments was $1.1 billion in 2010. Ten years later, it’s 12.7% smaller: roughly $960 million, the Tampa Bay Times reported. It’s those county health departments that are on the front line today, battling the coronavirus and coordinating testing. That raises the question: Could Florida’s public health system be better prepared? “We were more prepared 10 years ago than today,” said Krause, who left the department in 2011 and now works for a private consulting firm. The Florida Legislature passed a state budget in March that includes $52 million in emergency state and federal funds for the Florida Department of Health to fight coronavirus, plus another $300 million in reserves if the crisis continues. Lawmakers deserve credit for responding to […]

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